Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, David Luther of George Mason University explains how urban-dwelling birds have responded to an increase in man-made noise. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 4:34am

The Pittsburgh office of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday rejected a request by Duquesne University to block a vote by adjuncts on whether to unionize, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Duquesne, a Roman Catholic university, argued that its religious affiliation should exempt it from a union election. But the NLRB noted that Duquesne had agreed to a union vote just weeks earlier, and that long-established NLRB policy bars parties from opting out of an election they have agreed to barring truly unusual circumstances.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Officials at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln believe a professor who had been leading students on a study abroad trip has been detained by Chinese authorities for undisclosed reasons, based on reports from the professor’s family.

Weixing Li, an assistant professor of practice management at the university’s College of Business Administration, has offered the monthlong study abroad program since 2008, and he had not experienced any problems with the Chinese government until now, said David Wilson, senior international officer at the university. Li’s family notified the university on Friday that Li had called his sister in China to tell her he had been detained. Neither the family nor the university has been able to ascertain when he was detained or his whereabouts, and his family indicated they believe he is still in custody.

“There’s a good deal we don’t know -- when, why or where he was detained, for example,” Wilson said. Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on Li’s detention.

Wilson said Li is not an American citizen, which makes obtaining information about his situation difficult. “We’ve been working with the American Embassy (in Beijing), but there’s very little they can do because this faculty member is a Chinese national.”

According to a brochure, the study abroad program occurred from May 5 to June 1. Out of the 18 total participants, 11 decided to stay in China after the program ended to participate in internships or other activities. Wilson said Li was detained after the program ended, so Li was no longer accompanying the students. The university notified the students who remained in China about Li’s detention, and about half of them decided to come home early, Wilson said.

“We have no reason to believe that our students are not safe, or that this detention is in any way connected with them, but we felt that it was important to share that news with them so that they could talk it over with their families and make decisions,” he said, adding that the news had not yet been shared with the rest of the university community. Wilson said he contacted some other institutions to ask if they have had faculty members detained abroad, and no one he contacted has had experience with this scenario.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 4:36am

Niagara Falls, N.Y. has more than high-wire acts to attract attention. The city is offering to repay $3,500 a year in student loan debt, for two years, for people who move to certain neighborhoods in the city, The Buffalo News reported. Mayor Paul A. Dyster said the plan was key to finding young people to live in the community. "Trying to revitalize a downtown without young people is like trying to get bread to rise without yeast," he said.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 3:00am

Foreign language instructors at Italian universities, typically born outside Italy, have some of the worst working conditions in Italian academe, The New York Times reported. Under various provisions of Italian law, they work at lower salaries than other university instructors, and tend to lack basic sick and family leave, among other benefits. Despite a series of legal challenges to this system as inconsistent with European regulations that are supposed to promote equity across national borders, and a series of court wins on the issue, most of the language instructors have seen little progress.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 3:00am

Yale University has been falling short in dealing with and preventing sexual harassment on campus, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has found, after an investigation prompted by a 26-page complaint ended Friday with the announcement of a resolution agreement. The university under-reported cases of sexual harassment and assault by “dozens” of cases (OCR could not be more precise), had in place confusing and unclear procedures for reporting cases, and failed to inform students about the resources the university did have. But in a call with reporters Friday, assistant secretary for civil rights Russlyn Ali said the university already put in place corrective measures that will “ensure proper compliance” with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. “They showed a lot of courage really early on and made some proactive steps,” Ali said. The initial complaint, which alleged that Yale failed to eliminate a hostile campus environment of sexual discrimination, was filed by 16 students in March 2011, just before OCR issued a “dear colleague” letter to colleges across the country reminding them of their obligations to address sexual harassment under Title IX.

Yale came under intense scrutiny after a group of students from the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, which has since been all but booted from campus, chanted “no means yes, yes means anal” outside the women's center during a pledge initiation in fall 2010.

Yale said in a statement that it was pleased with the terms of the agreement, which, among other things, requires the university to improve and publicize its resources, periodically assess the campus climate to evaluate its efforts, and coordinate compliance efforts. “The university is pleased that the Office of Civil Rights has closed its Title IX investigation without any finding of non-compliance by Yale. We are gratified that OCR has recognized Yale's extensive efforts and ongoing commitment to prevent and address sexual misconduct,” the statement said. “Over the past two years, the university has committed extensive resources toward improving its policies, procedures, practices and services to provide an environment in which all students feel safe and well supported, and protected from sexual misconduct.”

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 3:00am

Daniel Strickland, an assistant professor of engineering at Santa Clara University, was tragically killed last fall. A feature in The San Francisco Chronicle details how several recently graduated students are staying on at Santa Clara to try to finish a project Strickland launched with the goal of improving the way power is provided in the developing world.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Daniel Krupp of Queen’s University (Ontario) reveals how our unconscious beliefs about life expectancy can influence major life decisions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 4:25am

"Irregularities" have been found in an executive master's degree in business program of Baruch College of the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. While all details have not been released, the problems involve a program head accused by college officials of faking signatures of professors to improve the grades of some students who might otherwise have dropped out of the program. Students whose records were affected are being given the chance to make up work so that their degrees will not be affected.

 

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

Instructure, the learning management provider, today announced a deal with the Cisco Networking Academy, an educational program of Cisco Systems that partners with universities, community colleges and high schools to prepare students for the company’s certification exams. Under the deal, Cisco Networking Academy would use Canvas, Instructure’s open-source learning management system, to deliver its I.T. courses to about 1 million students worldwide, according to a press release. It is a coup for the young company, which captured a modest 1.2 percent share of the LMS market last fall.

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